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Jensen Storm

JENSEN last night hit back at claims it has milked the public purse as it considers a move to relocate its operation to South Africa.

JENSEN last night hit back at claims it has milked the public purse as it considers a move to relocate its operation to South Africa.

Executives at the luxury car manufacturer launched an attack on the region's regeneration industry, claiming it had failed to support "one of the greatest high- profile small business opportunities to come to Merseyside for years".

Director Chris Thomson hit out following an attack by Garston MP Maria Eagle, who suggested grants should be repaid.

The company ceased production on Monday and is considering moving to a cheaper operation in South Africa, a move linked to a takeover by rescue specialist the MacDonald Partnership.

Mr Thomson said: "The hysteria about public money and hand-outs to Jensen is indicative of the defensive attitude of the public sector agencies at their failure to succour and support one of the greatest high-profile small business opportunities to come to Merseyside for years."

Mr Thomson claims the company has only had £175,000 of public funding from Merseyside agencies, and £200,000 from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Liverpool Council gave a £ 150,000 grant and bought £ 100,000 of shares. Speke Garston Development Company put in £25,000, while a £250,000 injection from Merseyside Special Investment Fund was a commercial loan, he said.

"So Maria Eagle cannot get her facts straight, which is a pity because she has been kept fully informed since as long ago as May 11," said Mr Thomson.

"The report to her on that date was headed '43 quality jobs about to be thrown away: Potential for many more to be squandered'," he added.

He slated the lack of support from regional agencies compared-with £5m raised by private investors: "The region should be asking itself what it should be doing to really provide enduring jobs." He added: "It is difficult to see where all the effort and money goes and what the true agenda of the public sector agencies actually is," he said.

The DTI's regional selective assistance grant amounted to £2,000 per job created, compared with the UK average of £14,000.

A spokesman for North West Development Agency last night said: "The NWDA regrets the potential loss of Jensen. We have been deeply committed to try to ensure the venture is a success.

"Jensen has received over £200,000 of regional selective assistance from us alone. The problems at Jensen are ones of productivity and it would not be appropriate to invest even further sums of public money."

Executives from Jensen's new backers, the MacDonald Partnership, will be at the Speke factory to issue a statement on where the business goes from here.

There have been reports that production in South Africa could start in three months, but a spokesman for MacDonald was unable to confirm that.

He said: "A business review is under way but it is our view that it is very difficult to make a success of a business like this in Britain in the current climate, especially with the pound as strong as it is." MacDonald is one of the UK's top ten " turnaround" companies that specialise in rescuing ailing businesses.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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